Before I begin this summer’s various voyages across the eastern & midwestern US, I thought I’d finish up a summary entry that I never completed after my cross-country trek two years ago.
My trip over the summer of 2011 was long but fantastic! It had two major transcontinental legs: 1) traversing the longest road in the United States, U.S. Route 20, from Boston to Newport, and 2) heading back east across the middle of the country (via several different roads), from San Francisco to Baltimore. But there was also the first part of my journey, when I drove from Baltimore north to Boston and visited friends and family in Massachusetts. And in between the two long stretches, I drove up and down the Pacific coast, visiting a friend in Seattle, sampling some of the beaches of Oregon & California, checking out some redwoods, and attending a conference in San Francisco.
Hills of Upstate New York, along Rte 20
Spotted Wolf Canyon and I-70 in Utah
A Complete Index of Posts
Here’s a complete (and mostly chronological) list of every post from that summer of travel!
- Road Trip!: sharing my plans for the summer – May 25
- Bye-bye Bmore: leaving the bright lights of Baltimore behind for the open road – June 23
- First Stop on Route 20: a few days before my official Rte 20 journey began, I visited a friend at his restaurant along Rte 20 in Watertown, and also scoped out the route’s eastern terminus at Kenmore Square near Fenway Park – June 25
- Atlantic Ocean: visiting the beach with my family, before heading over to that other ocean – June 26
- Westward, Ho!: the start of my Rte 20 drive – June 28
- Boston, MA –> Sloansville, NY: includes detour to Tyringham Valley, MA – June 28
- Sloansville, NY –> Buffalo, NY: includes detour to Taughannock Falls & Seneca Falls Women’s Rights National Historic Site – June 29
- Buffalo, NY: includes the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens – June 30
- Buffalo, NY –> Cleveland, OH: includes detour to Presque Isle, PA & the James A. Garfield house in Mentor, OH – July 1
- Cleveland, OH –> Chicago, IL: includes a detour to Oberlin College, OH – July 2
- Chicago, IL: includes Grant Park & more – July 3-4
- Chicago, IL –> Sioux City, IA: includes the first of two bridges over the Mississippi River – July 4
- Sioux City, IA –> Merriman, NE: includes my entry into the Mountain Time Zone – July 5
- Badlands: a detour off of Rte 20 to Badlands National Park – July 5-6
- Merriman, NE –> Glenrock, WY: includes a nice sunset over the mountains – July 6
- Oregon Trail: includes me carving my name into the Rock in the Glen, WY, alongside travellers of the Oregon Trail, the National Historic Trails Museum in Casper, WY, & other places in both Idaho and Oregon where my path crossed that of settlers on the Trail – July 7-11
- Glenrock, WY –> Yellowstone, WY: includes the awesome Wind River Canyon & my first glimpse of buffalo – July 7
- Yellowstone National Park: includes many amazing sights, especially the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River – July 7-9
- Yellowstone, WY –> Boise, ID: includes the first nuclear power plant & Craters of the Moon National Monument – July 9-10
- Boise, ID –> Newport, OR: includes my reaching the Pacific Ocean at the western terminus of Rte 20 – July 11
- Route 20 Wrap-Up: a very detailed summary of the preceding eighteen entries, with towns and cities and other points of interest along the way – June 28 through July 11
- Seattle: from Newport, I headed north to see a friend in Seattle; includes views from the Space Needle – July 13
- Pacific Coast: multiple days of travel including Pacific City, OR, redwoods in CA, and the lights of San Francisco, via roads I-5, US 101, and CA 1 – July 12-15
- San Francisco: includes views from Telegraph Hill & Golden Gate Park – July 16-20
- Yosemite National Park: includes several very cool waterfalls & rock cliffs – July 21
- Colorado Plateau: includes mile 0 of I-70, various highway pull-offs in Utah, Dinosaur Hill, CO, & Colorado National Monument – July 22-23
- Rocky Mountains National Park: includes Bear Lake, Emerald Lake, elk, the Continental Divide, & the nearby city of Denver – July 24-25
- Missouri: includes the Jazz Museum in Kansas City, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, and the Eads Bridge across the Mississippi – July 26-29
- Back in Bmore: includes the eastern end of I-70 & home sweet home! – July 29-30
A Few Summary Stats
Whew! It tires me out just listing out all those posts! All in all, my travels that summer took me across more than 10,000 miles and 25 different states, over 38 days.
I averaged more than 44 miles per gallon (closer to 46 for the Rte 20 part).
The map below shows a little of my personal US travel history. In maroon are states I had visited before 2011 (including those I went to as a child on a family trip, to my best recollection); in blue are states that were a part of my summer 2011 travels; purple (a combination of those colors) are states that were part of that trip but to which I had also been before.
States visited before (maroon/purple) and during (purple/blue) summer 2011
So you can see I covered a lot of new ground! I increased the number of states I’ve been to by 58% over what it had been before. But I still have twelve states I’ve never set foot in – there is still some work for me to do!
Looking back at it, I’d say that summer was for me a mix of roads tourism and parks tourism.
I bought a National Parks pass, which more than made up for its cost, compared to paying entrance fees at every park I visited. In addition to the national parks (Badlands, Yellowstone, Redwoods, Yosemite, Rocky Mountains) and national monuments (Craters of the Moon, Colorado), the pass got me into some national historical sites (Garfield House, National Historic Trails Interpretive Center, Museum of Westward Expansion at the Gateway Arch). I also visited state and city parks (Redwoods, Taughannock Falls, Golden Gate, Grant).
Sign in Yosemite National Park
I really enjoy hiking & going for walks in scenic places. I believe that we need to invest more in our parks, at local, state, and national levels.
I was walking with a colleague on our lunch break in Druid Hill Park, Baltimore, last week (June 2013). While it was still a positive experience, to leave the greyness of the city and get some exercise and fresh air in a green area, the park was not all it could have been. There was litter on the ground, and there was no sidewalk nor walking path nearby or parallel to Greenspring Avenue, an automotive road which runs through the park, forcing us to walk either in the street or on the grass.
Parks, if they are done well, provide places to walk, places to picnic, places to drive. They provide natural beauty.
Inspiration Point, with the Yellowstone River visible 1000 feet below!
They conserve our natural resources: from plants,
Looking up at the tops of some redwoods
An elk near the path
to rock formations in danger from erosion.
In addition to these benefits, creating and maintaining parks can provide good jobs. My grandfather was a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression, and my parents have pointed out to me trees he planted that are still growing today. Several parks had signs commemorating the work done by the CCC in founding or expanding that park:
The CCC built Rim Rock Drive in Colorado National Monument
We should treasure and continue to invest in parks during a time of recession, not cut them.
The other aspect to my 2011 trip was what I’ll call ‘roads tourism’. I’ve described before how I like to take more scenic routes, rather than always choosing the quickest path from A to B. This means I often avoid the interstates, which are some of the most boring stretches of driving ever! It’s about enjoying the journey and not just the destination.
Although they are dull drives, the interstate system is a great feat of engineering. And I love the pattern that they form, into a not-quite-grid, with even numbers going east-west and odd numbers north-south. Especially the multiples of 5 and 10. From I-95 running along the east coast, to 1-5 on the west coast; I-90 connecting Boston to Seattle, down to I-10 which goes from Jacksonville to Santa Monica.
However, before Eisenhower established the Interstate System, there was a similar gridlike system of United States Routes.
Map of Current US Routes, Wikipedia
The numbering system for US Highways was established in 1925-6 by the American Association of State Highway Officials. Again, odd numbers go north-south, while even go east-west, but the high even numbers are in the south and the high odd numbers are in the west (this is purposely reversed for the interstates to avoid confusion between same-numbered routes in each system).
The main north-south routes were those congruent to 1 modulo 10 (i.e. 1,11,21,31,…91,101). US 1, for example, goes from Maine’s border with Canada, south to Key West, Florida. [I’ll be travelling part of it this summer!] On the west coast, US 101 goes all the way north to Olympia, WA, and south to Los Angeles.
The primary east-west routes were the multiples of 10 (along with Rte 2 since there is no Rte 0), most of which used to stretch from coast to coast. Now only two do: US 20 (Boston, MA, to Newport, OR) and US 30 (Atlantic City, NJ, to Astoria, OR). [US-2 does as well if you continue it through Canada; US 50 gets tantalizingly close but stops in Sacramento; US 6 although not a multiple of 10 also gets very close, which along with the fact that it is more on a diagonal than due east-west, makes it the second longest road in the USA after US 20.] The fact that most now do not connect the coasts is because, due to the popularity and efficiency of the interstates, sections of the old US Route System have been discontinued. For example, US 40 used to stretch all the way from Atlantic City (through Baltimore) to San Francisco, but now stops in Salt Lake City.
Anyway, I find driving on the US numbered highways to be a lot more interesting than driving on the interstates. In some places, they take you through beautiful scenery. Heck, Route 20 took me through Yellowstone National Park!
Porcelain Basin, Yellowstone
Even when the scenery is more mundane–like Route 1 in Massachusetts, which is filled with the suburban sprawl of shops, restaurants, and car dealerships–it still has a sense of variety that is lacking on most interstate drives.
US Routes also take you through towns and cities instead of mostly skirting around or above them like the interstates do. This of course makes them slower (US Rte 1 from Boston to Baltimore, through the downtowns of Providence, New York City, and Philadelphia, took me 50% longer than my usual path via I-84), but also definitely more interesting.
On my summer 2011 trip, my most obvious instance of road tourism was taking US Route 20 from start to finish.
First Rte 20 sign, heading west from Boston
Sign in Newport, OR: End 20 West, or Begin 20 East?
I’ve written elsewhere about how Rte 20 is the longest road in the country, so I feel a sense of accomplishment having driven every mile of it!
Additionally, I travelled south from Oregon to San Francisco over much of US Highway 101.
Route 101 in California
My return eastward included US Rte 50 in Nevada, the “Loneliest Road in America”,
US 50 in Nevada
as well as US Rte 40 in Denver and Pennsylvania and anyplace else I wanted to leave I-70 for a break from the monotony.
Rte 40 in Denver, CO
Rte 40 in Pennsylvania
I even crossed part of the famous (but sadly decommissioned) Route 66 in St. Louis!
Get your kicks on Route 66
And, even though I’m not as big a fan of the interstates, I also managed to visit both ends of Interstate 70:
Mile 0 on Interstate 70, Utah
I-70: Last Exit, Baltimore, MD
Anyway, hope you enjoyed this trip back through my cross-country wanderings from two years ago. As I head to Kansas City, Boston, and Orlando this summer, I’ll be sure to describe my travels here. 🙂